Thursday, May 28, 2009

Carnivals of the Church Year: Pentecost

I didn't know what to expect when Kerry and I planned this carnival. But the more of these entries I read, the more excited I became. I love reading these stories about the work of the Holy Spirit in people's lives. And even the ones that are mostly about how to celebrate Pentecost carry in them a very clear understanding of why we celebrate Pentecost, of why it is so important that we have a member of the Trinity - God Himself - living with us, comforting us and strengthening us and guiding us. Because His presence with us means that we know God, that we are loved by God and that we are empowered to obey God.

Here is what this carnival reminds me of: have you ever been privileged to have a dear friend, and then to meet an old friend of that friend? Perhaps you've gotten to meet your mother's childhood friend, or your husband's best buddy from high school. And that old friend tells you a story or two about your dear friend, and all of the sudden you're overcome with even more fondness for your dear friend than you already possessed, because now you know even more about him or her, and can see not just what you find lovely about your friend, but you can see what your friend's friend finds lovely too. You know more, and so you can love more.

Reading these entries was a bit like that. I have known the Lord almost all of my life, yet, of course, still know Him very imperfectly. As I read these stories I have the simultaneous response of, "Oh yes, of course, that's just what He's like!" and "I didn't know that about Him - how wonderful!" It is a combination of familiarity and surprise that delights my heart and satisfies my soul.

Let's start with a post from my co-host for the Church Year Carnivals: Kerry of A Ten'o'Clock Scholar. She writes about fellowship as a spiritual discipline and as means the Holy Spirit uses to ignite our love. And she quotes Dallas Willards, so you know it's going to be good.

Ranee of Arabian Knits offers some specifics about how her family has celebrated Pentecost (BBQ, anyone?), but also offers some really good insight into how the church year works, and how following these traditions is especially useful for teaching children about God.

Amy of Splendor in the Ordinary talks about the Holy Spirit, Pentecost and baptism, as she looks forward to the baptism of three children at Pentecost this year! I especially appreciate her observation: "We could not do it alone, or even as a Church, without the Spirit." She also offers this very helpful post with concrete suggestions for celebrating Pentecost as a family.

Jeanne of At a Hen's Pace writes about Hearing the Voice of the Lord. More specifically, about how she knows when she's hearing from Him, and about the journey of discernment He's led her on. Great stuff.

Kelly, from The Liturgical Year For Little Ones, offers some great ideas and links for celebrating Pentecost with the little ones. I especially like the Dove Mobile idea, but check out also her ideas on decorating your home and throwing a birthday party for the church with your kids.

Amy, of On A Joyful Journey, offers an amazing testimony to the power of the Holy Spirit in her life. If you've ever wanted to hear what it's like to feel God's strength sustaining you when you had none of your own, of His peace being present in your heart when no peace should be possible, well, just go read Amy's words. I'm amazed and grateful, Amy, at the witness you offer to God's unfailing love.

Keith from Under the Acacias shares a missionary's perspective on Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is still prompting people to share the good news about Jesus. Read about both the first Pentecost and a church service 20 centuries later in Burkina Faso.

Here is a piece of poetry for Pentecost, from Tara at Storyformed, entitled Wildfire. Doesn't it seem appropriate to write poetry for the feast of the Holy Spirit? After all, we have all the wisdom literature in the Bible because He inspired the authors to write it.

And we end with a short and profound meditation from Ann, of Learning as We Go.

Thank you all for participating and for reading. The next carnival will be held for Kerry during Ordinary Time.

Finally, if you sent me a link and I forgot to include it, please let me know, so I can correct my error.

Happy Pentecost!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Pentecost Carnvial - deadline extended - send in your posts!

The deadline for the Pentecost Blog Carnival is being extended till Friday. Kerry and I would love to have you participate; please just send me a link to your post on how you and your family celebrate Pentecost (can be from last year's festivities, if you like) or about the role of the Holy Spirit in your life, in the church's life, etc.

The idea is just to gather together thoughts from other liturgically-minded women as we prepare to celebrate this joyful holiday!

Please see my original prompts for some writing ideas, if you like, and then just send me your post at jessica dot snell at gmail dot com.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

on speaking of God

I've wondered, for a long time, how I should witness, how I should share the gospel. My sister said something yesterday about always being sure that the people around you know that you know and love Jesus. Then you can always tell them the gospel and they will always know they can ask.

Then, this morning, I read this in St. Francis de Sales' "Introduction to the Devout Life"

If you love God heartily, my child, you will often speak of Him among your relations, household, and familiar friends . . . Even as the bee touches naught save honey with his tongue, so should your lips be ever sweetened with your God, knowing nothing more pleasant than to praise and bless His Holy Name . . . But always remember, when you speak of God, that He is God; and speak reverently and with devotion, not affectedly or as if you were preaching, but with a spirit of meekness, love and humility; dropping honey from your lips (like the Bride in the Canticles) in devout and pious words, as you speak to one or another around, in your secret heart the while asking God to let this soft heavenly dew sink into their minds as they hearken. And remember very specially always to fulfill this angelic task meekly and lovingly, not as though you were reproving others, but rather winning them. It is wonderful how attractive a gentle, pleasant manner is, and how much it wins hearts.

This answers a lot of my questions. I have been slowly trying to mention God more and more to people I know or happen to meet, and it is getting easier, because the longer I live, the more of my life and heart I open up to Him. And the more I submit my life to His will, the more all my activities revolve around Him. So that, eventually, I can't talk about anything I'm doing - parenting, writing, even housekeeping - without making mention of my Lord. So witnessing becomes natural.

I think. It still scares me - I'm so scared of doing it wrongly that I don't do it at all. Often and often, that is the sad truth. But this passage from St. Francis encourages me, makes me think that I'm on the right track, and gives me hope that God will overcome both my fear and my puzzlement, and that someday, everyone I meet will meet Him too.

I'm so not good at this. But He is. And I have to trust that He'll help me.

And I really like St. Francis' instruction here to pray for others while we are speaking to them. The seems very, very right.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

of smugglers and deserters

I love research.

I am - in the minutes and hours I can snatch here and there - working on becoming a better novelist. These young childhood years are the time to slowly work on my art, so that hopefully, when the kids are a bit older, I'll have put in the time I need to be a professional.

Anyway, one of the things I've discovered recently is how helpful research is to plotting. I write historical fiction, and I've learned that when I don't know exactly how to solve a plot hole, the thing to do is to go and read some history. Inevitably, I'll learn more about the the world my characters inhabit, and that will spark an idea about how they would react to their world. I couldn't, say, have a brave priest who celebrated mass despite official divestiture unless I knew the governement of Rouen had closed the churches during the early days of the Revolution. That sort of thing.

Most of my stories are set in England, but, to my dismay, I figured out that my latest one starts in France. I know very little about local culture on the coast of France in the early 1800's, and I knew that to write a good story, I needed to do some research. A friend recommended using our local university library, and even found me the perfect book, which is how I found myself, early this morning, reading Gavin Daly's dissertation: "Inside Napoleonic France: State and Society in Rouen, 1800-1815."

I know, sounds like a snoozer, right?

Nope, it's fascinating. I think specifics always are. Not a "generally, in these fifteen years, this happened", but a "this year, in this place, with these people, this happened."

Anyway, one of my plot holes was that though I knew my hero (an English scholar, who'd traveled to Paris in 1803, during the brief Peace) needed a way to escape French arrest (he gets caught there when hostilities resume), I had no idea how he was going to manage it. Poor fellow is a scholar, not a soldier. How would he get away, and even if he did, how would he make it back to England?

But Mr. Daly's book reminded me that most of the soldiers in the French army were conscripts, and didn't want to be there either. Is it inconcievable that my hero - who while no soldier, is a man of means - might be able to bribe a deserter to be his native guide? No, it's quite conceivable. And all of the sudden, I have a way to get my hero back to England, and write some harrowing escape scenes in the process!

I love research. I never would have thought of that solution if I wasn't sitting here reading someone else's dissertation.

It's just interesting to me that the best prompt for the fiction writer's constant question, "What if?" isn't speculation. The best prompt for "What if?" is fact.

In other words, the best lies are mostly truth.

And now that I have potentially insinuated that all we novelists are are excellent liars, I think I'll sign off.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, May 18, 2009

coming soon: Ascension Day and Pentecost!

I hope you all are writing some great posts on how you celebrate Pentecost for the upcoming Blog Carnival (send 'em in!). I just wanted to share a couple of things we've done in the past for Ascension Day and Pentecost, and that we're hoping to do again this year, so that you can plan for them if you're looking for some ways to celebrate these two holy days at home.

First, for Ascension Day, think about doing an Ascension Day hike. The idea is to find a mountain or a hill and walk up it, to remember and celebrate Jesus' ascension into heaven. At the top, you can read the gospel account of the Ascension, and say a prayer, thanking our Lord for going to prepare a place for us. We've found that doing this really resonates with our children. (You can always do this on the weekend, rather than on Ascension Day itself.)

Then, for Pentecost, consider making a spicy dish - the idea being that the spices remind us of the flames of fire that descended on the early church on the first Pentecost. Also, consider decorating your table with red rose petals, for the same reason. I think this year we're going to use red geraniums, because that's what we have. Both of these easy home celebrations provide an excellent opportunity to talk about the Holy Spirit with your children; about how He came the first time, how He lives in their hearts once they invite Him in, how He lights up our hearts like the rose petals brighten the table, how He permeates our lives like the spices permeate the food.

Remember to send in your Blog Carnival links!

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Friday, May 15, 2009

Pentecost Blog Carnival

After all the good reading that the Lenten Blog Carnival generated, Kerry (of A Ten'o'Clock Scholar) and I decided that there need to be a few more carnivals. After all, Lent is not the only season in the church year!

Easter having already passed, we decided to kick off this new set of blog carnivals with a Pentecost Blog Carnival. This one will be hosted here at Homemaking Through the Church Year, and the next one will be hosted at A Ten'o'Clock Scholar.

Here's how it will work:
-Write a post about Pentecost. It can be about how you celebrate it with your kids, or about resources for celebrating, or about prayer for the season of Pentecost, or about the work of the Holy Spirit in your life. (See below for a list of prompts for writing about the Third Person of the Trinity.)
-Send me a link to your Pentecost post (jessica *dot* snell *at* gmail *dot* com) by May 27 (the Wednesday before Pentecost).
-Optional: post an announcement about the carnival on your blog, so that more people can find out about it an contribute. Feel free to steal the nifty .jpg picture at the top of this post.
-The Pentecost Blog Carnival will go live here on Pentecost Sunday (May 31) - come and see the link to your post, and read all the other great posts. Pray, celebrate and thank God for his good gifts!

For those of you who want some ideas for your posts, here's a few prompts:

Pentecost Prompts
The longest season of the church – Ordinary Time – comes after Pentecost. The implication is clear: most of our lives are lived in the long, green season of the Holy Spirit. The church exists now, after Christ has left, yes, but after the Holy Spirit has come. Jesus did as He promised, and sent us a Comforter.

I had a professor who told us once that if the Holy Spirit is sometimes hard to see or hard to talk about, it is because he is like this: he is like a man standing behind a blackboard, on which he has written the name JESUS, and all you can see of him is his hand reaching around the board to point at the name. The Holy Spirit does not draw attention to himself, he draws attention to Jesus.

These prompts, I freely admit, were mostly stolen from the hymn “Come, Thou Holy Spirit Bright”, a hymn whose tune I don’t know, but whose words I read often. You may not need them at all, but if you want something to spark your thoughts about Pentecost, please feel free to use them.

-How does the Holy Spirit bring light to our lives? How does He convict us, and keep us from keeping our dark corners hidden?
-How does the Holy Spirit inspire us to help the poor?
-Christians often experience both blessings, and the prompt to bless others. How has the Holy Spirit, in your life, prompted and inspired this cycle of generosity and care?
-Our bodies are said to be the temple of the Holy Spirit. How do you make the third Person of the Trinity welcome in your person? How do you, as it were, practice hospitality here? Do you think about your actions in terms of “not grieving the Holy Spirit”?
-How does the Holy Spirit bring peace to you?
-How does the Holy Spirit aid you in your vocation?
-How does and has the Holy Spirit brought you rest?
-How is and has the Holy Spirit turned your sufferings into gold?
-By filling our hearts, we find that the Holy Spirit drives out whatever else was there. Do you find that His presence in you leaves no room for lesser things, for sin? Talk about that experience.
-How has the Holy Spirit helped you to discern? Helped you learn wisdom?
-Have you found your judgment improving, the longer you have been a Christian? Your love growing warmer? Have you been able to love people, and known that it was not your own love, but God’s love pouring through you? Meditate on this.
-How has the Holy Spirit helped to heal you?
-Has the Holy Spirit convicted you of sin?
-Has the Holy Spirit reminded you of the Father’s forgiveness?
-How has the Holy Spirit helped you fix your eyes on Jesus?
-How has the Holy Spirit helped you to be part of the church? Think of how such a strange variety of people have been knit together in one Body, and of the Holy Spirit’s role in that.
-How do you see the Holy Spirit’s role in guiding us in right belief (orthodoxy)?
-How has the Holy Spirit lead you into joy?
-The presence of the Holy Spirit in us is the promise of the life to come. How does the Holy Spirit in you affect how you view death? How make you sure of Heaven?

I'm looking forward to reading all the posts!

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Here is a link to a letter that ended up being the evidence that convicted a man of challenging another man to a duel (then illegal) in Missouri in 1831. It shouldn't be funny, but it sort of is, especially because he had to hide what he was trying to do, and because he emphasized - over and over - that all he was doing was inviting the other fellow to a hunting party. (Of DEATH!)

I'm sorry I didn't link to it in time for y'all to participate, but you have to take a look at Chip MacGregor's Bad Poetry Contest results. Oh, the deepfulness. The reflectivosity.

This New York Times article about the way kindergartens are now run in the States mentions a lot of the reasons that influenced our decision to homeschool next year.

Jen's post on her "staggering inability to be grateful" is well worth the read. She talks about how she practiced reminding herself of all that she had to be grateful for, but how that still didn't make her content. Then, upon praying, she had this insight:

The Holy Spirit has basically hit me over the head with a cluebat to tell me that my gratitude list should contain a lot fewer items having to do with worldly comforts and a lot more items having to do with experiencing God's love, even when it's not pleasurable or fun.

There's more to it, and I really suggest going and reading the whole thing.

And here is what Anne wrote on the recent legal decisions regarding the Diocese of San Joaquin. Please read and pray. (And enjoy Anne's prose. Even when she's writing about things like how "going to court and being involved in this mess brings with it an uncomfortable helpless feeling", she also manages to slip in dry observations like "I REALLY don't have time to thinking about this. My school area is covered in salt put there by a roaring lion of a baby, seeking what she may devour".)

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

Apart from the crowning of the statue of the Virgin Mary with flowers (repeat after me, my dear church: "We are Anglican, not Catholic. We are Anglican, not Catholic . . ."), it's been a lovely Mother's Day.

My husband had the children color on cards for me, and wrote down what they wanted to say, and it was sweet and wonderful. (And he got me my own wonderful card too.) And a beautiful, beautiful raw silk scarf, in shades of green and gold. My sister also brought me back a scarf from Europe recently, and I've been having fun experimenting with the styles from this website. (So far, I like "the crown" best. It'll be a nice substitute, I think, for my favorite hairstyle of braiding a crown around my head - till my hair gets long enough again, of course!)

I also wanted to share a picture of my recent craft project. This is what I sent the grandmas for Mother's Day: little crocheted and beaded flower brooches:

I also found out just this week that a couple of friends are expecting, and it added to the celebration.

And now, especially to my mom: Happy Mother's Day! Thank you for teaching me about prayer, about marriage, about mothering, and about a million other things; you are blessed and a blessing and I love you.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Sigmund, your slip is showing

The "guide us waking" is one of the prayers we pray with the children at bedtime sometimes (along with the Lord's Prayer, "now I lay me down to sleep", prayer for family and my daughter's favorite "Goodnight, Jesus. I love you. Amen.").

If you haven't heard it, this simple, profound prayer goes:

Guide us waking, oh Lord, and guard us sleeping.
That awake, we may watch with Christ
And asleep, we may rest in peace.

But tonight it came out of Adam's mouth:

Guide us waking, oh Lord, and guard us sleeping.
That asleep we may watch with Christ
And asleep we may rest in peace.

We were both laughing as we opened our eyes, and I said, "Actually, your version doesn't sound bad to me!"

peace of Christ to you,
from the so-very-ready-for-sleep
Jessica Snell

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

30 Day Shred

I think everyone who reads this blog knows that no one is paying me to shill for anything. (Though, y’know, if you want me to pay me to shill for something for you, drop me a line, eh?) But, I’ll still say: no one’s paying me to shill for this product.

Here’s the product: Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred. I love, love, love this DVD. I got it two or three months ago, and have been doing it 4-6 times a week ever since then. I just wanted to share in case anyone else is looking for something like this.

I’m not sure everyone would love it, but here’s why I do: it’s really short and it’s really hard. Short is good, because there is only so long I can keep the kids from crawling on me (and each other) while I’m working out. Hard is good, because if I’m going to invest the time (and even half an hour is a huge investment when you have four kids), I want it to really work. (It says it's 20 minutes, but it's closer to 30 with the warm-up before and stretching after.)

I was a jumper (pole vault, long jump, triple jump) in high school and somewhat into weight-lifting in college, and this reminds me of a lot of the stuff I did during those times of my life. It’s got a lot of jumping (squat jumps, jumping lunges, plank jacks) and lots of weight-lifting and some ab work. I’m finding that I can make it harder as I go by slowly upping the amount of weight I’m using. There are some of the moves (chair squat with a v-raise) that I still need to do using 5 lbs. weights, but some (press and clean) that I can do with a 15 lbs. dumbbell, and still get through all the repetitions. On most of them, I’m starting with the 15 lbs. and switching to the 5 lbs. halfway through.

But here’s the lovely thing: I have muscles again! I’m a mesomorph, and my body is happiest when it’s muscley. I never get skinny, but I can get nice and lean and defined, and I love it when I look (and feel) that way. Despite the stretched-out skin from my twin pregnancy, I can see my abs again (hi, abs!). And (truly) doing this workout regularly has made it much, much easier to lift my almost-25-lbs twin toddlers, which is a great blessing. I can get by on a bit less sleep too, and feel more cheerful (you know, once I can breathe again). It’s like my muscles say, “Just work us really hard for 20 minutes a day, and I promise you, we’ll be really nice to you for the 23 2/3 hours that are left.” Fair deal. They double that promise if I stay away from sugar. :)

I also love that Jillian is not girly. She’s great at saying actually-motivating things. Not things like, “Oh, look how well you’re doing!” Ick. No. Things like, “This is no fun at all, but if you want change, you have to actually put stress on your body to force it to change.” (I paraphrase.)

Honestly, the things she says about physical fitness always lead me to think about spiritual fitness. About how God puts stress in my life to force me to change, tests and refines me. Puts me through my paces, as it were. And how, if I commit to the process, dive into the exercise despite the pain, I get so much more out of it. (“Don’t you dare phone this in,” says Jillian, and I think about more than just the stupid, stupid, stupidly painful side-lunges-with-an-anterior-raise.) I think the discipline from this DVD is leaking into other areas of my life, and I’m all for that kind of cross-training.

Anyway, this is something that has helped me greatly. Again, if you’re the sort who would rather go run a few miles rather than touch a weight, don't buy this. Have fun running! But if you’re like me, and you like circuit-training, and might only have 20 minutes a day, I highly recommend this DVD. It’s awesome. Hurts, but works.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Friday, May 1, 2009

homemade yogurt!

Just a quick note: I tried this recipe (hat tip to Amie) for crockpot yogurt and it turned out really well. Going to try mixing it with some fruit this afternoon for snacks.

Yogurt in your crockpot - who knew? Thought I'd note our success with the recipe in case anyone was looking to do the same thing. I did drain mine, btw, to make it thicker.

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell